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What Makes A Video Go Viral?

By Chris Worthington / August 26th 2015

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I believe it was a petulant panda that introduced me to the notion of viral video in 2006, long before I had even heard the phrase. I was getting ready for school and my mum had spent a substantial amount of time starting up her old desktop computer so she could show me something on YouTube.

Mother and baby pandas sit quietly together. Suddenly, the tiny baby sneezes loudly and startles the very large mother, who looks down at her baby with an expression that could rival Macaulay Culkin´s grimace on the Home Alone movie poster

A bit of fun – but this video left a longer lasting impression than the sensation of orange juice that I’d snorted down my nose while laughing: The video had received millions of views on YouTube and, nine years later, the view count is still rising – more than 218 million at the time of writing.

Imagine if this many viewers had been exposed to your brand in a way they would remember? Is it possible to create a corporate video that is so popular?

The characteristics of a viral video

Whether it´s a sneezing Panda, screaming goats, a finger biting baby or just a really good television advert, popular videos share common traits.

1. They are all short. According to a study by Static Brain Search Institute, our attention spans are shrinking, and a video will loose a staggering 19% of viewers after just 10 seconds. An additional 25% will leave after one minute, according to The New York Times.

2. They invite engagement. People like to get involved, they like to be heard and they like to interact. Something as simple as inviting to share or comment at the end of a video could be an easy way to engage viewers.

3. They elicit a positive emotional response. Happy videos = happy people. Remember that friend who always shared depressing stuff on Facebook. No? Well, that’s probably because you unfriended him. A study by the authors of What Makes Online Content Viral, Jonah Berger and Katherine L Milkman, suggests that content that produces happy feelings goes viral faster than content that produces negative emotions.

4. They teach viewers something new. Whether it´s a new way to fold a shirt, or a hack for chopping onions that doesn’t make you cry, viewers want to soak up new information, and share this with friends and family.

5. They keep people on-trend with current affairs. What’s happening in your community, country or the wider world? Is there a new multimillion dollar movie premiering soon? Is there an important local football game coming up? Show interest in the same topics as your audience, and your content is more likely to catch the viral wave.

6. They inspire. How many times have you caught yourself wiping tears or rethinking your life after watching a video online? (Oh admit it, we’ve all been there!) Whether it´s a tear jerking reunion of old friends, or a critical message to humanity these stories are often the cause of strong emotion, or thought. Is there someone out there with a truly inspiring story linked to you, or what you do? If so, find them and share the inspiration.

7. They are unique. Viral videos that show things that have never been seen before, or in ways that have not been done before, are the most watchable and shareable. And shareable makes a video viral.

Can you create a viral video?

Even if you apply all of these characteristics to your video, it’s not guaranteed to go viral – this power is in the hands of your potential audience. What the points above will achieve is shareability and mass appeal.

In addition, an important element is luck. It only takes one influential blogger, Twitter account or Instagram profile to share (and therefore endorse) a video to their masses of followers. One could say it is a bit like winning the internet lottery.

You can learn more about corporate video and animation production .

Thanks to Laila Tjensvoll for this guest post.